At the risk of being labeled Captain Obvious, let me begin with a simplistic yet important statement: Missionaries need the Bible. Ministry is fulfilling, but it is also hazardous. Language, culture, and new experiences of spiritual warfare compound these hazards for the missionary. In the midst of long days and nights of ministry, missionaries often struggle with spiritual exhaustion and long seasons of spiritual dryness. One of the key ingredients behind this exhaustion and dryness is a lack of rich and nourishing time in the Word of God.
6 ways to hold onto the Word in seasons of fruitful ministry or in seasons of exhaustion and dryness:
Read. You don’t fall into reading the Word, it takes work. Reading the Bible exposes you to the grandeur and goodness of God. George Guthrie says it well,
As we read on a daily basis, growing in our skill in Bible reading, the rhythm of a life lived deeply in God’s Word will become as nurturing as our daily meals, as spiritually strengthening as daily exercise, and as emotionally satisfying as a good-morning kiss from a spouse. It takes discipline, but Bible reading can come to be a discipline of delight if we open our hearts and lives to it (15).
– Read the Bible For Life: Your Guide to Understanding & Living God’s Word
Make it your daily routine to read the Word. If you need a change of pace, make use of listening to the Bible via an app. I do this often when I am running or getting ready in the morning. It’s a great way to bolster my reading habits.
Study. Saturate yourself with the Word. Don’t settle for skimming over the surface, but commit to delve the depths of God’s Word through study. Spend time studying a book, a theme, or find that area in your life that you want to grow in or a sin you need to slay and study everything the Bible says about that particular topic.
Meditate. Consider the Word for more than 15 or 30 minutes a day. It’s been said that three things are eternal: God, His Word, and the souls of men. Think about the Word, come back to it, keep it before you as often as possible throughout your day. Invest in eternal things.
Memorize. I find that this is a dying discipline for many. Whether it is due to the disease of busyness or the ease of the click and search Bible or something else, many do not take the time to consistently commit the Word to memory. Cultivate the ability to call the Word specifically to mind–key verses, whole chapters, and even books. It takes work, but knowing the Word allows the Spirit to minister to you and others no matter where you are or what you are facing.
Pray. The Word informs and inspires our prayers. The psalms are a wonderful help in this arena. Use them as your words to pray back to God. The psalms are honest, raw, and lofty. They speak to the emotional spectrum, and, at least for me, are often the seeds for extended prayer when I just don’t feel like it or know what to say.
Apply & Obey. Think of your own life and family first and not your next ministry appointment, discipleship group, teaching time or sermon. The Spirit wants to use the Word in your life to grow you, mature you, and help you to pursue God with more expectation and passion.
These 6 ways of holding onto the Word helps to combat the following dangers:
- Ministry staleness. When ministry is stale, this is often a good indicator that you are ministering either out of your own strength or from past experience. You need to reconnect with your Good Shepherd through His Word. This will give you a renewed energy and vision for your ministry.
- Pride. You are not the most important person to missions. Your team is not dependent solely on you. The strategy and ministry is not built for one, but for a team, a team of men and women submitted to the Lord and that give deference to one another. The peoples you work among need an encounter with a humble King, not a prideful missionary.
- Strategy-dependence. God fulfills His mission, not the right strategy. Yes, strategy is needed and important; however, our dependence is on the living God who transforms the hearts of men and women, and not our plans. The Word reminds us to make sure we have our priorities rightly ordered.
What are other ways you have found to hold onto the Word in different seasons of life and ministry?